My wife and I have different standards.  She thinks that a stain on shirts or pants renders them unwearable.  I disagree.  If the stains are small enough and inconspicuous enough, I'll keep on wearing the clothes.  Sure, that may seem barbaric to some, but if no one notices, what's the big deal, right?  Don't get me wrong, though.  I still have standards.

I wouldn't wear a white shirt with obvious BBQ sauce stains.  I especially wouldn't wear it to a funeral or wedding.  If I did, I would feel exceedingly self-conscious.  Even while seated and with my eyes closed for prayer, I would feel as though everyone were staring at me. I would be ashamed, dirty, and disrespectful.  You know what that feels like, right?

What if we thought about the impact of our sin as a stain?  That's how the Bible describes it, admonishing us to "keep oneself unstained by the world" (Jam. 1:27).  The sinful influence of the world creates big, obvious blotches on our souls that ruin our appearance and are incredibly disrespectful when in the presence of holiness and purity.

My goal is to get to heaven, but I want to do a little more than that.  To the best of my ability, I want to fit in there.  I want to honor God and not insult Him.  I want to please Him and not disgust Him.  I want to be unashamed.  How can I do that if I have embraced the world?  I don't want stained thoughts.  I want my heart and body to be pure and holy.  Not even a little stain is acceptable, not when we are talking about being in the pristine destination of heaven and in the holy presence of God.

This thought became more personal to me the other day when I considered the way I was thinking and realized how incredibly ugly I had allowed myself to become in God's eyes.  I was ashamed at the thought of being in His presence.  I was disgusting.  Unacceptable.  As this horrible feeling of guilt sank in, I was greatly motivated to clean up my act, to work harder to purify my hearts and cleanse my hands (Jam. 4:8).

Of course, we won't be perfect no matter how hard we try to be.  That doesn't mean our situation is hopeless.  Jesus has cleansed the church (Eph. 5:26) so that He can present her "having no spot or wrinkle" (Eph. 5:27).  That is good news, but that doesn't mean I should take sin lightly.  Jesus has gone out of his way and made incredible sacrifices to cleanse us of our sins.  Shouldn't we show the same level of commitment to keep ourselves from being stained again?

Gathering on Sundays to worship God is good religion, but it does not compare to carefully watching over our hearts, thoughts, speech, and actions to make certain that we have not been stained by the world's influence.  That's a type of religion that God truly appreciates.

- Jared Hagan